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Sons of Anarchy: Season One (NR)

20th Century Fox Home Entertainment / Release date: Aug. 18

While I do enjoy the occasionally spicy episode of Nip/Tuck, I have never been able to stomach the overplayed histrionics of FX's other critically acclaimed shows, such as Rescue Me and The Shield. Because of this, I skipped Sons of Anarchy, the network's new motorcycle gang drama. Bad move. It's a skuzz-bucket retelling of Hamlet, detailing the criminal goings-on of a family of bikers with all the behind-the-scenes infighting and treachery that made Shakespeare's story so memorable. Casting Ron Perlman and Mitch Pileggi as rivals was a great idea, and Katey Sagal's scheming house-mom is brilliant. The main problem? The series lead, Charlie Hunnam, is a wispy kid who is too cute and wet behind the ears to really be a believably scummy biker. Maybe he'll grow into it next season. — Louis Fowler

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The Class (PG-13)

Sony Pictures

This feature from director Laurent Cantet, about a teacher in a room full of underprivileged, unruly teenagers, is almost shockingly unsentimental. To begin, this teacher is not a rousing inspiration. He's a real teacher, François Bégaudeau, who wrote a book called Entre les Murs (Between the Walls) about his experience teaching French in a Paris school. He adapted it with Cantet and Robin Campillo for this film, in which Bégaudeau plays a version of himself, by turns a patient progressive and an exasperated authoritarian. As a flawed white overseer of African, Arab and Asian youngsters who trust neither his authority nor any multiculti platitudes of their mutual Frenchness, he has his work cut out. One of 2008's best films, this rangy, lifelike docudrama (plus commentaries and making-of featurette) won't just defy your expectations; it'll school you. — Jonathan Kiefer

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Big Man Japan (PG-13)

Magnolia Home Entertainment

While everybody was creaming their jeans over the revisionist and "real world" retake on comic book mythos presented in Watchmen, I was busy enjoying the wonderful revisioning of the kaiju genre in Big Man Japan. Sure, that might make me the bigger nerd, but at least the laughs in Big Man were intentional. Japan, under siege by monsters for decades, has employed the use of "Big Men" — specially trained males made gigantic through electrocution — to fight the beasts. But the attacks have waned in recent years, and the last remaining Big Man (Hitoshi Matsumoto, who also directs) is a depressed sad-sack slacker who would rather drink than fight the ridiculous monsters. On top of that, everyone hates him for doing his job. A lot of people won't be into this, but for those Godzilla-style monster geeks out there, this is the comedy of the year! — Louis Fowler

The Tiger's Tail (R)

MGM Home Entertainment

John Boorman, like Nicolas Roeg and Ken Russell, is part of that revolutionary school of directors that in the late '60s and early '70s created some of the most mind-blowing anti-establishment films ever made. In the past decade, however, they've all been relegated to low-budget mainstream fare, leaving their once-renowned flourishes trying hard to break through. Boorman's latest, The Tiger's Tail, is a particularly enthralling tale of an Irish developer who keeps seeing his doppelganger, only to have the double replace him with no one noticing. Brendan Gleeson delivers a powerful performance as both men, while Kim Cattrall, as the developer's wife, delivers a hilariously fake Irish accent. (Bless her cougar heart for trying.) As entertaining as Tiger is, part of me is still hoping Boorman delivers another Zardoz-level mind-screw before he dies. — Louis Fowler

  • Sons of Anarchy: Season One; The Class; The Tiger's Tail and more.

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